Rare 1933 Film: The Great Storyteller Rudyard Kipling on Truth in Writing

“We who use words enjoy a pecu­liar priv­i­lege over our fel­lows,” says Rud­yard Kipling in this rare filmed speech. “We can­not tell a lie. How­ev­er much we may wish to do so, we only of edu­cat­ed men and women can­not tell a lie–in our work­ing hours. The more sub­tly we attempt it, the more cer­tain­ly do we betray some aspect of truth con­cern­ing the life of our age.”

The speech was giv­en on July 12, 1933 at Clar­idge’s Hotel in Lon­don, dur­ing a lun­cheon of the Roy­al Soci­ety of Lit­er­a­ture for vis­it­ing mem­bers of the Cana­di­an Authors’ Asso­ci­a­tion. Kipling was 67 years old at the time. The text of the speech (which you can open and read in a new win­dow) was pub­lished in a posthu­mous edi­tion of A Book of Words.

Rud­yard Kipling was one of the most cel­e­brat­ed Eng­lish writ­ers of the late Vic­to­ri­an era. Hen­ry James once said, “Kipling strikes me per­son­al­ly as the most com­plete man of genius (as dis­tinct from fine intel­li­gence) that I have ever known.” In 1907 he was award­ed the Nobel Prize in Lit­er­a­ture. As a pro­lif­ic author of short sto­ries, poet­ry, and nov­els, Kipling was the fore­most chron­i­cler of the British colo­nial expe­ri­ence.

But as the British Empire fad­ed in the 20th cen­tu­ry, so too did Kipling’s lit­er­ary stand­ing. His works for chil­dren, includ­ing The Jun­gle Book and Just So Sto­ries (see below), are still wide­ly enjoyed, but much of his oth­er writing–even the clas­sic nov­el Kim–is viewed with ambiva­lence. The lit­er­ary genius praised by James is often over­shad­owed by our con­tem­po­rary views on the cru­el­ty and exploita­tion of colo­nial­ism.

“Mer­ci­ful­ly,” says Kipling lat­er in his speech to the Cana­di­an authors, “it is not per­mit­ted to any one to fore­see his or her lit­er­ary elec­tion or repro­ba­tion, any more than it was per­mit­ted to our ances­tors to fore­see the just stature of their con­tem­po­raries…”

You can down­load Kipling’s works by vis­it­ing our Free Audio Books and Free eBooks col­lec­tions.

h/t @Rachel_RK

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